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School CP - October 1945
The Times, London, 19 October 1945
High Court of Justice: King's Bench Division
Punishment of boy: Action against head master fails
Feldman v. Evans; before Mr. Justice Wrottesley
HIS LORDSHIP gave judgment for the defendant in the action in which Peter Feldman, a boy aged eight years, suing by his father, Mr. Emmanuel Feldman, of Aylmer Road, Finchley, N., and Mr. Feldman claimed damages for alleged assault from Mr. A. Myddleton Evans, the head master of Leas House School, Kingsley Way, Finchley.
The plaintiffs' case was that on March 10, 1944, Mr. Evans beat the boy by striking him on the leg with a stick or other instrument, drawing blood.
Mr. Evans, in his defence, denied liability, and said that it was a term of the contract between himself and the parents of boys that he might administer corporal punishment if he considered it in a boy's best interest. On March 9, 1944, the boy struck a fellow pupil in the face with a piece of metal, injuring him, and it was agreed between him (Mr. Evans) and Mrs. Feldman, Peter's mother, that he should administer corporal punishment to Peter if inquiry showed that there was no sufficient provocation for his assault on the other boy. Mr. Evans admitted that, having found that there was no sufficient provocation, he gave Peter six strokes on the naked buttocks with a flat rubber instrument about 17½ inches long, 2½ inches wide, and ¼ inch thick, and that in the course of that punishment the boy sustained slight grazes of the upper right leg, and he pleaded that the punishment was reasonable and was justifiably and moderately administered.
It was stated that the day before the punishment was administered the infant plaintiff found the handle of a motor-car door on a piece of waste land. Another boy tried to take it from him and pushed him over and the infant plaintiff struck him with the handle, first in the stomach and then in the face, injuring his nose. The only real issues were whether or not the punishment inflicted had been excessive, and whether or not Mr. Evans had struck the boy on the bare buttocks with an unsuitable instrument in such a way as to draw blood.
At the conclusion of the evidence counsel addressed his Lordship.
MR. JUSTICE WROTTESLEY, in giving judgment, said that the real question which he had to decide was not whether there had been an unjustifiable assault on the boy, but whether the punishment administered had been excessive. It was given by this kind of glorified slipper, an instrument made of the kind of material used for the rubber soles of shoes, which, in his view, must be a safer thing to use on the tender skins of small boys than a stick or cane. The instrument had, however, the disadvantage that the toe of it was square and, therefore, had a corner which might break the skin.
Having carefully considered the evidence he had come to the conclusion that the boy's skin was not bruised by the whacking which he received, but that in the course of being beaten he squirmed or moved so that by accident the toe of the instrument bent round the boy's buttocks and grazed him in two places on the leg. People who punished little boys like the plaintiff must be careful, but he was satisfied that in the present case no unnecessary violence had been used and that really the matter was a storm in a teacup. There had been no undue violence shown, and the grazes from which the boy suffered were small and trivial and were caused by accident. There would be judgment for the defendant, with costs.
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